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Chicago Alliance for Neighborhood Safety v. City of Chicago

March 26, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Albert Green, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice O'mara Frossard

[8]  Plaintiff, the Chicago Alliance for Neighborhood Safety (CANS), brought this six-count complaint against defendants the City of Chicago (City) and the Chicago police department (Department) seeking equitable relief under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA or the Act) (5 ILCS 140/1 et seq. (West 2000)). After defendants produced most of the records sought by plaintiff in its complaint, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on counts I, II, III, and IV. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants on count IV, and, following a bench trial, entered judgment in favor of defendants on counts I, II, and III. Plaintiff appeals the order granting summary judgment for defendants on count IV and the judgment after trial for defendants on counts I, II and III. Defendants cross-appeal fees awarded to plaintiff.


[10]   Count I sought, pursuant to section 9(b) of the Act (5 ILCS 140/9(b) (West 2000)), a writ of mandamus directing defendants to maintain all notices of denial in a single central office file open to the public and indexed according to the type of exemption asserted and, to the extent feasible, according to the types of records requested. Count II sought a writ of mandamus directing defendants to maintain and make available a detailed list of the types and categories of records under the Department's control pursuant to section 5 of the Act (5 ILCS 140/5 (West 2000)). Count III alleged defendants violated the Act by denying plaintiff's July 2, 1998, written request for copies of all FOIA requests to, and responses from, the Department from 1993 to the date of its request. Count III sought an injunction directing defendants to make available for inspection and copying all FOIA requests from January 1, 1993, to the date of judgment and the responses to those requests. Count IV alleged defendants violated the Act by denying plaintiff's request for "beat meeting forms," dispatch policy orders, and "beat integrity summaries" and sought an order directing the documents be made available. Counts V and VI requested overtime expenditures and district plans.

[11]   Defendants provided plaintiff with access to various documents -- beat meeting forms (count IV), FOIA requests and responses to those requests (count III), and FOIA denial files (count I) -- with redactions. Before disclosing beat meeting forms, defendants redacted names and addresses of "community liaisons" and participants. Defendants disclosed, pursuant to a protective order entered by the court on June 9, 1999, and an agreed order entered on August 20, 1999, FOIA requests and responses which the Department had in its possession. The protective order required defendants to produce these documents but restricted plaintiff's use of the information. The order barred plaintiff from disclosing names and addresses of individual FOIA requesters without leave of court and provided that requests and responses "shall be deemed `constructively redacted.' " The order reserved plaintiff's right to challenge redactions, which applied only to individual requesters, not to organizations making FOIA requests. The Department began to maintain a file of notices denying FOIA requests (denial file) after plaintiff's initial request to inspect the file in May 1998 and provided plaintiff access to this file with names and addresses of FOIA requesters redacted. Defendants also tendered unredacted copies of the denials to plaintiff subject to the trial court's protective order.

[12]   Before trial, dispatch policy orders and beat summaries requested in count IV and all documents requested in counts V and VI were disclosed to plaintiff without redaction. Although defendants initially responded that many documents were exempt from disclosure or too burdensome to produce, they ultimately tendered most documents. The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment as to unresolved issues in counts I, II, III and IV.

[13]   Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to counts III and IV alleged names and addresses of beat meeting participants and FOIA requesters were properly redacted pursuant to section 7(1)(b) of the Act. The Department's pamphlet entitled "Getting the Most From Your Beat Meeting" was attached to their "motion for summary judgment as to documents identified as privileged." That pamphlet stated "[b]eat meetings are regular meetings *** where police and community residents meet to exchange information about conditions in neighborhoods, identify crime and disorder problems, and develop strategies to combat those problems." The pamphlet stated "[t]he purpose of the beat meeting is to allow beat residents, other stakeholders and police to discuss chronic problems on the beat and engage in problem solving."

[14]   Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on counts I and II and a cross-motion for summary judgment on counts III and IV. Plaintiff attached exhibits to its cross-motion, including the Department's General Order 96-3, Addendum 5 (General Order 96-3) and a confidentiality agreement entered into by the Department and the Chicago Community Policing Evaluation Consortium. General Order 96-3 provides the beat community meeting log "serves as the official record of the beat community meeting" and "feeds into the beat-planning and problem-solving process."

[15]   Defendants filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on counts I and II contending the Department's denial file complied with section 9(b) of the Act and its list of categories of records complied with section 5 of the Act. Defendants filed a response to plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment and attached to it the affidavit of Professor Wesley Skogan from the Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University (IPR). Skogan stated in his affidavit he was a political science and a faculty fellow at IPR, a public policy research organization. Since 1992, IPR, as part of the Chicago Community Policing Evaluation Consortium, has monitored and evaluated the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. For that evaluation, the City provided IPR with beat meeting forms including names and addresses of beat meeting participants. Skogan stated IPR agreed to and did in fact keep the disclosed information confidential.

[16]   After conducting a hearing, the court denied the parties' motions and cross-motions on counts I, II, and III and granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on count IV stating:

[17]   "[T]he issue within count IV is whether the names of the Beat Meeting participants should be redacted from the Beat Meeting forms by the Chicago Police Department. Section 7(1)(b)[v] of the FOIA states that information exempted from disclosure under this subsection includes information revealing the identity of persons who filed complaints with or provide information to administrative, investigative, law enforcement or penal agencies. [Citation.] Referring to Section 7(1)(b), the Illinois Supreme Court has stated that when a public body claims that a requested document falls within one of these enumerated categories and is able to prove that claim, no further inquiry by the Court is necessary. *** In the present case, participants at the Beat Meetings who are then listed in the minutes of those meetings are clearly providing information to law enforcement agencies. In fact that is one of the specific purposes of those meetings. Accordingly, this Court finds that the names of those participants are properly redacted on the Beat Meeting forms."

[18]   The court conducted a bench trial on what plaintiff and defendants agreed were the remaining issues in the case regarding counts I, II and III. The court identified those issues as follows:

[19]   1. Whether the Department's file of letters denying FOIA requests meets the requirements of section 9(b) of the Act;

[20]   2. Whether the Department's proposed list of "all types or categories of records under its control" satisfies section 5 of the Act; and

[21]   3. Whether the Department is entitled to redact, based on privacy, under section 7(1)(b) of the Act, the names and addresses of persons who make requests under the Act, "as those names and addresses appear in: (a) FOIA requests; (b) FOIA response letters; and (c) the [D]department's file of letters denying FOIA requests."

[22]   It was stipulated at trial that various city departments and state agencies, including the Illinois State Police, Illinois Attorney General's office, Springfield police department, and Sangamon County sheriff's department, produced without redaction, FOIA requests and responses to requests.

[23]   Warren Friedman, a member of plaintiff's board of directors who had served as plaintiff's executive director for 17 years, testified for plaintiff regarding its purpose and how it sought to advance that purpose through FOIA requests. Friedman stated plaintiff's general purpose is "to work with community people and community organizations to make neighborhoods safer places to live for all residents." Monitoring government to ensure it acts in the public interest is critical to plaintiff's purpose. Friedman explained plaintiff sought information under the Act to "understand ourselves and train others and help -- and give technical assistance to others to act more effectively in their relations with the police and in their desire to make communities safer." Friedman stated plaintiff requested access to denial files to determine whether the Department was treating FOIA requests differently "because of where [the requesters] live geographically, that is because of perhaps race or class." Friedman explained plaintiff wanted to contact people listed in the Department's files in order to organize them to promote causes they shared with plaintiff. Friedman explained plaintiff was interested in denial files to discover whether plaintiff was being denied information given to others, to have an opportunity to talk to others being denied information, and to identify possible common interests and possibly take action on denials. Friedman acknowledged plaintiff had received unredacted copies of denial letters. However, he stated the protective order's restrictions regarding use of names and addresses eliminated plaintiff's ability to make public any information it might develop about the Department's treatment of FOIA requesters. Thus, Friedman explained, plaintiff had not devoted its limited resources to a systematic review of the documents.

[24]   On cross-examination, Friedman was asked whether plaintiff's counsel had ever requested the trial court to clarify whether the protective order allowed plaintiff to publish a study "that talked about geography or some other study based upon the FOIA information." Friedman answered "Not to my knowledge, no." In addition, Friedman acknowledged plaintiff used redacted beat meeting forms it received to publish studies in its newsletters, but did not use the names of persons attending those meetings.

[25]   James Hickey and Carmella Means testified for defendants. Hickey, assistant director of the Department's records division, oversees the Department's resolution of FOIA requests. Hickey stated when he joined the records division in July 2000, the Department's FOIA denial file was not current. Hickey selected Officer Means as the Department's FOIA officer and instructed her to ensure the denial file was complete for the year 2000 and remained up to date. Hickey stated the denial file is available for public inspection at the records division; however, names and addresses of individual requesters are redacted in the denial file out of concern for requesters' privacy.

[26]   Hickey stated the file is maintained manually on a word processing document and is indexed by type of exemption asserted, not by type of document requested, due to a lack of resources to index by type of document requested. Although there is no computer database program, he hopes to computerize records on a database in the future in order to facilitate additional indexing. During cross-examination, Hickey stated that he was unaware of any "book of denials" containing denials issued before 1998. Thereafter, defense counsel stipulated that the denial file did not comply with the Act prior to the initiation of plaintiff's action.

[27]   Officer Means testified she has maintained the Department's FOIA denial file since becoming the FOIA officer in August 2000. To update for the year 2000, Officer Means manually went through each file for every FOIA request made that year to verify whether it contained a denial letter. If she found a denial letter, she checked the denial file to confirm the file contained a copy. If the file did not contain a copy of the denial letter, she copied it and placed it in the denial file. Officer Means is the only person who indexes the file. She continues to place a denial letter in the denial file for every FOIA request denied. On cross-examination, Means stated it would be feasible to physically index denials by major categories of documents; with help she could index more categories of documents.

[28]   Count II alleged the tendered list of categories of documents under the Department's control violated section 5 of the Act because it was not sufficiently detailed and sought a writ of mandamus directing defendants to prepare, maintain, and provide such a list. During opening statement, plaintiff's counsel asserted the Department's section 5 list attached to plaintiff's complaint was deficient because it "does not describe in any helpful way documents that are kept electronically." During opening statement defense counsel referred to a proposed revised list that the Department intended to use. Defense counsel stated he tendered that revised list to the court before trial and that it provided a complete list of document types including an attached index of specific documents. Defense counsel did not offer that revised list into evidence during trial. During closing argument, plaintiff's counsel noted no evidence was presented indicating the Department had implemented any new list. In closing, defense counsel acknowledged the revised list had not been offered into evidence, but indicated this new list would be implemented.

[29]   In ruling on counts I and III, the court found disclosure of names and addresses would constitute an invasion of personal privacy under section 7 of the Act, and that the Department was thus justified in redacting names and addresses of FOIA requesters from the requests, responses and denial file. As to count II, the court stated the City "has now presented a list of `all types or categories of records under its control' and it substantially meets the requirements of Section 5." Plaintiff appeals summary judgment for defendants on count IV and judgment for defendants after trial on counts I, II, and III. Defendants cross-appeal the award of fees to plaintiff.


[31]   Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, affidavits, and admissions on file, when viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, show that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 2000); Petrovich v. Share Health Plan of Illinois, Inc., 188 Ill. 2d 17, 30-31 (1999). Our review of a grant of summary judgment is de novo. Morris v. Margulis, 197 Ill. 2d 28, 35 (2001).

[32]   Plaintiff challenges summary judgment on count IV, contending defendants violated the Act by failing to provide plaintiffs with beat meeting forms containing names and addresses of community liaisons. Defendants contend names and addresses redacted from the beat meeting forms are per se exempt under section 7(1)(b)(v) of the Act.

[33]   "The Act implements the public policy of this state to provide its citizens with full access to information regarding the affairs of government." Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union 130 v. Department of Public Health, 327 Ill. App. 3d 192, 195 (2001). Public records are presumed to be open and accessible under the Act, and section 3(a) of the Act provides that a public body must comply with a request for such records unless one of the Act's exemptions applies. Chicago Journeymen, 327 Ill. App. 3d at 195; 5 ILCS 140/3(a) (West 2000). "The exemptions are set forth in section 7 of the Act." Lieber v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, 176 Ill. 2d 401, 408 (1997). If a public body denies a request and the requesting party challenges the denial in the circuit court, "the public body has the burden of proving that the records in question fall within the exemption it has claimed." Lieber, 176 Ill. 2d at 408.

[34]   Section 7(1) of the Act states in relevant part:

[35]   "(1) The following shall be exempt from inspection and copying:

[36]   ***

(b) Information that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the disclosure is consented to in writing by the individual subjects of the information. The disclosure of information that bears on the public duties of public employees and officials shall not be considered an invasion of personal ...

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